Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Supreme Court hears cases on ineffective assistance of counsel; transcripts are available

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases on the law of lawyering: Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye.  Both cases ask the Court to decide whether a conviction should be reversed due to an attorney's mistaken/incompetent advice during plea negotiations. The attorney's conduct in Frye was also a violation of the attorney's duty under rules of professional conduct.  Here is a link to an article providing all the background on the cases.

In Lafler, the attorney mistakenly told the defendant that the state could not establish a necessary element of its case.  Based on that advice, the defendant rejected a guilty plea, was convicted at trial, and was eventually sentenced to a much longer prison term.

In Frye, the defendant’s counsel simply failed to inform him that a plea bargain had been offered at all, allegedly leading him to enter a guilty plea on terms far less favorable than he would have received had he agreed to the state’s offer.

The full transcript of the oral argument in Lafler can be found here.  All relevant documents in the case can be found here.

The full transcript of the oral argument in Frye can be found here. All relevant documents in the case can be found here.

The Associated Press reports (here) that the Court “seemed reluctant” to offer a second chance for plea bargaining after sentencing had taken place, while Nina Totenberg of NPR reports (here) that the Justices “seemed a bit more conflicted” in Frye than in Lafler. Adam Liptak also has coverage of the arguments for the New York Times (here).  Thanks to Nabiha Syed of the SCOTUS blog for these links.

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